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Rapping Back PPR #40

Portland Copwatch member Dan Handelman analyzes the Police "Union" newsletter, the "Rap Sheet" for the People's Police Report
How much mud could a gunslinger sling if a gunslinger could sling mud?

Signs of Prejudice #1: Retired Cop Remembers Threats
Now-retired Det. Dave Schlegel wrote of his work assigned to protect the Prime Minister of Japan, who was visiting Portland. He imagined terrorists going after the Prime Minister "dressed as the Hispanic cleaning crew."

Further exposing his racial stereotyping, Schlegel described one member of the Japanese delegation as looking like "OddJob," a bad guy's henchman from a James Bond movie. He noted the man's "Japanese slanted eyes sat far apart on his head and were so tight that I couldn't tell where he was looking" (September Rap Sheet).

Everyone But the Police Killed Jim Chasse: Blaming The Victim, The Victim's Family, and Society

Regarding the September 17th death of James Chasse, Jr. (see article), the Portland Police have adopted a few "party line" phrases.

These include blaming the beating death, which involved 26 fractures in Chasse's ribs, on an accident; blaming the lack of mental health care (Chasse was diagnosed with schizophrenia), and blaming his family. Despite some vague words of sympathy for the family, the Portland Police Association (PPA) and Chief Sizer made sure the community knew that the officers were suffering too (see article).

For example, PPA President Detective Robert King described the incident as a "tragedy" but stated that the officers are "devastated" in his October column in the PPA newsletter, the Rap Sheet. In November, he emphasized the Medical Examiner's determination, that the brutal death was an accident: "We all experienced a tragedy with Mr. Chasse's accidental death. I do think this unfortunate incident points to the lack of resources in our community's mental health system."

Rap Sheet editor Detective Peter Simpson diverted blame by overstating the influence of Portland's 150 or so officers trained in Crisis Intervention (or CIT, de-escalation with suspects who may be in mental crisis) and referring to the case of Lukus Glenn, a teen shot by Washington County police (see article).

Simpson complains that cops are "tasked with the difficult job of getting mentally ill persons under control," and while "police officers are expected to magically deal with people...without using physical force, sometimes that just isn't realistic." In terms of alternatives, "police officers in this area are some of the best trained in the nation when it comes to dealing with the mentally ill." However, none of the officers involved were trained in CIT.

Simpson wrote that "only after his release by medical did they transport [Chasse] to jail" --ignoring that Sgt. Kyle Nice told the Emergency Medical Service folks on hand not to take Jim Chasse to the hospital because Nice wanted to book him on criminal charges.

Simpson mirrors King's sentiments by seeming empathetic, then blaming others. "I don't know anyone who doesn't sympathize with the families of both Glenn and Chasse," he wrote. But he holds police superior because they also have sympathy for the officers involved. The bigger tragedy, Simpson says, is that the men were not getting the help they needed. Simpson asks of the Chasses, "where were they in James' life and why [did] they let him end up in the situation he was in. I wonder if the anger they are exhibiting is really an expression of guilt that they didn't take care of their brother and son when he needed them most."

As to whether police are to blame, Simpson blared in a headline after the Grand Jury's decision: "No True Bill: Good news from a tragic incident." His article proclaims:

"No reasonable person could expect an indictment. Plenty of unreasonable people [were] interviewed by the media, wrote 'letters to the editor' or called in to talk shows. Chasse's death was accidental, pure and simple. There was no intent nor was there negligence on the part of Portland Police officers that led to his death. To believe anything else is a display of insanity."

So, anyone who disagrees with Simpson is crazy. This is insulting not only because the police were negligent at best, but because he applies the term "insanity" to those who sympathize with a man diagnosed with a mental illness and killed by police.

Bringing in outside opinions to back up their assertions, the Rap Sheet printed a few articles clearly meant to relate to the Chasse case. Carol Moore of officer.com wrote in October that the "rights of others to stay alive trumps the rights of the violently mentally ill to actively determine their own treatment." Moore cites Mary Zdanowicz of Treatment Advocacy Center, who asserts a person with mental illness is 5-1/2 times more likely to kill a police officer.

Carol Hawkins, the wife of a Portland officer, wrote in October that she is sympathetic with officers in cases when death results, due to the stress and sorrow it causes them. She is upset that instead of widespread support, all you hear about are complaints filed with the Independent Police Review Division and "the particularly vituperative screeds of self-appointed police watch groups."

Hawkins tries to personalize her piece by noting that a psychiatrist diagnosed her mother with schizophrenia. After a judge said she wasn't a danger to herself or others, the mom disappeared for four years until a deputy sheriff found her in a park. What Hawkins doesn't seem to consider is, what if that deputy thought her mother was acting strange, and then tackled and beat her like Jim Chasse?

Signs of Prejudice #2: If You Don't Speak English, Don't Complain

Chief Wayne Tucker of Oakland is cited in an article by the Force Science Research Center, describing police responding to a family argument in which a man didn't drop a knife, advanced toward officers, and was shot and killed. The bullet also went through a door and hit the man's brother. Tucker said of the family, they "spoke little English, but enough to blame police" (November Rap Sheet).

Portland Police Association Under Attack?

Numerous columns by officers cite a series of "attacks" on the Portland Police, including concern about the death of Jim Chasse, articles about officers who filed the most use of force reports, and calls for public inquests.

The inquest held in 2004 following the shooting of James Jahar Perez was as equally eye-opening-- such as the training video in which Officer Jason Sery confronted a driver who pulled a gun on him--as it was frustrating--the inquest jury was not allowed to recommend a criminal indictment or clarify their "homicide" finding (PPR #33). Eventually, Sery resigned before the internal investigation was completed.

Nonetheless, President King set out in October to assert that inquests harm officers. Referring to Sery's resignation, King wrote, "We believe in transparency, but not when the price involves a sacrifice on the altar of our community's failure to understand us.... Our split second decisions are made political and we are assumed to be guilty and presumed wrong." He emphatically states that there is "no scenario where we would support an inquest."

To his credit, King also proposed an alternative to a public inquest in the Chasse case: "There must be a more constructive way for officers, the public and in this most recent case the family to have a dialogue."

"We do have confidence in the process currently in place," which King describes as "layer upon layer of review." The police investigation goes to the D.A., then the grand jury. "It is pure citizen review and we believe in it." We suspect he supports a grand jury and not a civilian review board because board members study police policies and training, leading to educated decisions, while grand jury members only hear one case of possible officer misconduct­presented by the police- friendly D.A.­and then are disbanded.

Expanding on the theme of the PPA under attack, King's November column, "Can we get some cover?" notes, "Portland is a politically liberal environment and there is little meaningful media support...I am at times tempted to be strident and I know there is widespread support in the membership for the outrage." However, he promises to remain "professional and respectful" ­like he was at the City's racial profiling hearing? (see article)

Rap Sheet editor Simpson added Mayor Tom Potter to the list of non-supporters in his October piece. Potter, also the police commissioner, called for a public and transparent investigation of the Chasse case, saying he would respect the outcome. What Simpson wants him to say is that he stands by the officers 100%: "unless presented with compelling facts to suggest otherwise, I believe the police officers' actions were justified." If you truly want the City to be unbiased, the Mayor's statement is a better example.

Meanwhile, PPA Secretary/Treasurer Mitch Copp cited the racial profiling report and the treatment of Officer Scott McCollister, who killed Kendra James in 2003 and whose 180 day suspension was overturned: "The list of unfair attacks seems endless" (November Rap Sheet).

Copp urges members to tell their own stories, adding that as part of a campaign put on by the PPA's PAC they are seeking crime victims to talk about their experiences. Thus, the "union" can "honestly portray the heroism and commitment displayed by PPA members." Their strategic plan is to increase credibility with the public, "resulting in greater political influence." How much greater can the PPA's influence be? They received everything they asked for in their last contract negotiation, thwart efforts for a real independent police review board, and keep public policy issues such as the drug testing of officers out of the public arena.

More push-back to public scrutiny came from an officer who used a pseudonym (November Rap Sheet). "John Brogan" felt comfortable voicing his concerns to coworkers, but not command staff or City Hall, asserting bad things can happen if "you've pissed off certain people."

Officer "Brogan" emphasizes that cops risk their personal safety, which is "why people are safe to come downtown and wonder [sic] around drunk, clueless and without fear." Now that cops "have had enough of the lack of support, name calling, the not guilty verdicts*, nasty looks, their pictures being plastered on light poles, second guessing of their actions by people who haven't a clue, biased 'investigative journalists,' the Mayor's idiocies, they will stop being proactive."

Why fight for my life, asks Brogan, when I might injure the suspect. "I still see dirtbags everywhere, but for now I'll just keep on driving."

*he means of civilian criminal suspects, not of cops who use excessive force

Signs of Prejudice #3: Terminally Ill People are Just Pot-Heads

Sgt. Pat Walsh of the Drugs and Vice Division put together a screed against Oregon's medical marijuana law. Walsh explains that an initiative (which failed to get on the ballot) to regulate how Portland Police enforce marijuana laws was to be "reviewed by a panel of stoners--I mean experts in the marijuana field (read: 'stoners')." He says that the war on drugs is failing because "stoners are organizing a campaign of deceit and bullying the rest of us" (November Rap Sheet).

Officer Ranked Number 2 in Hospitalization of Civilians Defends Himself

Officer Garrett Dow responded defensively in November's Rap Sheet to the October 31 Portland Tribune article analyzing officer use-of-force forms. Dow was found to be #2 for sending citizens to the hospital. Dow says the Trib "unfairly characterized officers and their use of force."

He says 4 or 5 of the six hospitalizations were not due to police use of force. Two were people in mental crisis who were tasered and allegedly uninjured. Amnesty International says that over 50% of those who die after being tasered are people suffering mental illness. So perhaps the reason for the transport wasn't officer use of force, but hospitalization was a good idea. Moreover, this anecdote implies that officers use Tasers as compliance tools rather than in self-defense.

Three others were (a) merely handcuffed, which requires a use-of-force form, (b) injured in a car crash, and (c) injured by other officers.

The last person was a man Dow injured. A woman called about an "intoxicated transient" who grabbed her. "The man was insolent as he charged me, attempted to take my baton, squared up and raised his fists to fight before I struck him four times on the arm with my baton." The man struggled with another officer and a Sergeant, so Dow used a Taser on him and took him to the hospital "as a precaution." The suspect also had cuts and bruises.

Dow complains about the exposure, claiming "officers are not public figures." Identifying police without putting the information in context "damages their credibility and ability to safely work and live within the community...It engenders distrust between the community and the police bureau in ways that are difficult to repair." He says the Tribune owes an apology to him, to the PPB and to the community. "The readership should be outraged by this inaccurate and sensationalistic piece." If anything, we should be outraged that public servants, who work to "protect and serve" while carrying deadly weapons are so reluctant to have the public scrutinize their actions.

Undercover Tales: Retired Cop Enjoyed Violating Your Civil Rights

Retired Detective Dave Schlegel reminiscing again about the good old days wrote about adventures he had undercover at protests in the October Rap Sheet. He and his male work partner were undercover at a gay rights protest and cut through a store to catch up. They ended up leading the march and they grabbed hands and "skipped along, singing and chanting all the way to the Justice Center."

At an anti-war protest (in 2001 or 2003), Schelegel saw "signs, costumes, laughter, bands, drums, noise" and had empathy for the protestors. The undercover cops scanned for signs that could be used as weapons, bulging bags, and people with hoods or gas masks. Along the route, a bicycle cop tripped him--apparently on purpose--and called him an "asshole," and he couldn't give away who he was. Three other bike cops laughed at him.

The Rapid Response Team arrived dressed in urban armor. "The cops all looked alike...they began to beat their nightsticks against their shin guards" and Schlegel admits "it was scary." People in orange vests, perhaps peacekeepers for the event, calmed everyone down.

Schlegel states that the PPB's tactic was to "divide and conquer." As he was still undercover, he didn't react as officers drove by a crowd of protestors and pepper-sprayed them out the car window.

As protestors directed the march, he observed them, "trying to identify leaders by their actions and then having uniform officers find a reason to ask what their names were so we could identify them." He took photos of people he saw and passed them on to "SID" for identification of those "organizing with a more sinister overtone." Unless there was any criminal activity going on, these police actions could be illegal under ORS 181.575, that prohibits collecting or maintaining information on people's political affiliations.

In a more gutsy move, after people were arrested, Schlegel attended a follow-up meeting at a brew pub. There were "big name lawyers" and "stupid white kids....hungry for attention and the power they felt unlawful behavior afforded them." So, the City sent an undercover cop to a session where people were talking about suing the City.

If you had any lingering thoughts that Schlegel was getting sucked into the anti-authoritarian mindset, he dispels that idea. He once told an anarchist, "If society didn't have rules, the guys with the guns would be in control, or at least kill all the little shit heads who didn't have guns, and the guys with the guns were the police." (The guy told him to quit listening to NPR and listen to KBOO.)

More Outrageous "Unbiased" Advice from the Force Science News

We've recently documented some of the outrageous suggestions coming from the Force Science Research Center at the University of Minnesota/Mankato. The November Rap Sheet brought some new zingers.

Reasons the public don't accept that shootings were justified include that they assume that "an officer can avoid shooting a subject in the back if he wants to ," or can control the number of shots he fires, or remember everything about the incident. The implication is that none of these things are in the officers' control--to be so police would have to "defy laws of physics and exceed the limits of human performance."

They do admit that it is important to hold police accountable --just not with unfair, arbitrary and unscientific standards. It's normal, for instance, for officers to say something in contradiction to the facts. We call this lying.

Finally they give some tips about how to conduct a "fair, balanced and impartial investigation." They suggest that investigators allow the officers to view video tapes of the incident , consult with other involved officers, and be interviewed as a group to enhance memory. Anyone recommending that a civilian suspect be given these benefits would be laughed out of the police station. In fairness, the FSRC may have lost the pages in their dictionary defining the words "fair, balanced and impartial."

Cops Defend Their Role in Assisted Suicides, Warn of "Litigaphobia" and Compare Officers to a Motorcycle Gang

Former Chicago police officer/FBI special agent John Willis and Sgt. Jeff Quail of Officer.com/Canadian Police Service wrote about "Suicide by cop" in the November Rap Sheet. They claim that it would be hard to find an officer who hasn't heard in the last 10 years "go ahead, shoot me." They explain there's a growing trend of officers not using force when they can, leading to an increase in people who are unafraid to attack officers. Officers don't act, they say, because of "litigaphobia," the fear of being sued. It originally affected physicians and therapists. Examples they give of how criminals begin to feel empowered when police don't act:

1) Verbal noncompliance. They say it was rare 20 years ago for a suspect to swear, belittle or argue; now it is routine.

2) Physical assaults: People now commonly spit, shove, grab, and punch police.

3) Deadly force: Suicide by cop is recognized in scientific journals since 1985. The phenomenon "explains most irrational acts that result in the death of some despondent and or criminal types."

But when armed with edged or impact weapon and engaged in a standoff, if they move forward, the cops respond with gunfire. Survivors express that they didn't think the officer would shoot them or they were just trying to scare them.

Willis and Quail ask, "Would they walk up to an outlaw motorcycle gang member and assault them, thinking there would be no reprisal?"

The Portland Police Association does not set policy. However, some PPA leadership and officers express negative attitudes toward citizens and civilian oversight in their newspaper. We worry these ideas may spread throughout Portland's ranks. The Rap Sheet is available from the Portland Police Association, 1313 NW 19th, Portland, OR 97209. The PPA's website is .

  People's Police Report

January, 2007
Also in PPR #40

James Chasse Dies After
  Police Tackle Him

15 Police Bullets Kill Unarmed Man
Other Shootings: Portland Area/OR
Profiling Sessions Prompt Oversight
CRC Hears Appeal, Presentations
Chief Sizer, Death, Tattoos & PCW
  • Sheriff Giusto Under Fire
  • Ex-Deputy Imprisoned on Drug Charges
  • Sit/Lie Reborn (Again)
  • Second Hand Shops & the FBI
  • Mayfield Settles for $2 Million
Quick Flashes
  • Two Pervocops Plead Guilty
  • Two Shocking Taser Incidents
  • Car Chases: Resignation, Death
Rapping Back #40

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

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